Monday, July 10, 2017

One of the first drownings in the Great Salt Lake

            Davis County 4th graders play in the Great Salt Lake at Antelope Island.

YES, you can drown in the briny, buoyant waters of the Great Salt Lake.
Although the GSL's waters are 3 to 5 times saltier than the ocean and and can't sink -- but "float like the cork" there, you can drown in the water.
Inhaling the water can choke and gag you and the briny water can fill your lungs and stop your breathing.
One of the FIRST, if not the first recorded drownings in the Great Salt Lake happened on Sunday, August 6, 1882.
According to the Ogden Herald newspaper of Aug. 7, 1882, J.D. Farmer, a well-known Salt Lake City businessman, drowned near the Black Rock resort, on the lake's south end. Although his body could not be initially found, his clothing was discovered in one of the bath houses. He could not be located when the day's final train was ready to return to Salt Lake City. People searched for his body, but it was not found until more than four years later.
The Salt Lake Herald newspaper of Oct. 13, 1886 reported than his body was finally found about eight miles west of Garfield, along the shoreline there. The skeleton's size apparently matched Farmer's height.
The Great Salt Lake has an average depth of 14 feet and pockets of it can be about 36 feet deep, depending on lake elevation. 

                     A youth floats like at cork in the Great Salt Lake.

-Although no one can be certain if the first drowning in the Great Salt Lake wasn't the Salt Lake grave robber, John Baptiste, whom Brigham Young exiled to Fremont Island in the spring of 1862. This since he was never found after an escape from the isle, the Salt Lake Herald Newspaper of Nov. 14, 1895 published an account of the robber where "fact and fiction mixed." 
This report was originally published in the Chicago Chronicle newspaper and was simply, "a wild, weird story." It states that Baptiste was exiled on "Church Island" (Antelope Island), when the fact is the location was Fremont Island.
This Chicago story, a forerunner of fake news, spins Church Island as haunted and avoided because Baptiste has turned into a wild man, hairy, old and dangerous. It even acts like the Great Salt Lake is extremely dangerous with many boats sunk and people drowned.
A work of fiction in the 1890s, it would make for a dismal TV movie plot today.

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